Level: beginner

The present continuous is made from the present tense of the verb be and the –ing form of a verb:

I am working
You are playing
He is talking
She is living
It is eating
We are staying
They are sleeping

We use the present continuous to talk about:

  • activities at the moment of speaking:

I'm just leaving work. I'll be home in an hour.
Please be quiet. The children are sleeping.

Present continuous 1

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Present continuous 2

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  • future plans or arrangements:

Mary is going to a new school next term.
What are you doing next week?

Present continuous 3

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Present continuous 4

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Present continuous questions

We make questions by putting am, is or are in front of the subject:

Are you listening?
Are they coming to your party?
When is she going home?
What am I doing here?

Present continuous questions 1

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Present continuous questions 2

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Present continuous negatives

We make negatives by putting not (or n't) after am, is or are:

I'm not doing that.
You aren't listening.
(or You're not listening.)
They aren't coming to the party.
(or They're not coming to the party.)
She isn't going home until Monday. (or She's not going home until Monday.)

Present continuous negatives 1

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Present continuous negatives 2

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Stative verbs

We do not normally use the continuous with stative verbs. Stative verbs include:

  • verbs of thinking and feeling:
believe
dislike
know
like
love
hate
prefer
realise
recognise
remember
suppose
think
(= believe)
understand
want
wish

 
  • verbs of the senses:
appear
feel
look
seem
smell
sound
taste
 
  • others:
agree
be
belong
disagree
need
owe
own
possess

We normally use the simple instead:

I understand you. (NOT I am understanding you.)
This cake tastes wonderful. (NOT This cake is tasting wonderful.)

Level: intermediate

We also use the present continuous to talk about:

  • something which is happening before and after a specific time:

At eight o'clock we are usually having breakfast.
When I get home the children are doing their homework.

  • something which we think is temporary:

Michael is at university. He's studying history.
I'm working in London for the next two weeks.

  • something which is new and contrasts with a previous state:

These days most people are using email instead of writing letters.
What sort of clothes are teenagers wearing nowadays?
What sort of music are they listening to?

  • something which is changing, growing or developing:

The children are growing up quickly.
The climate is changing rapidly.
Your English is improving.

  • something which happens again and again:

It's always raining in London.
They are always arguing.
George is great. He's always laughing.

Note that we normally use always with this use.
 

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Level: advanced

We can use the present continuous to talk about the past when we are:

  • telling a story:

The other day I'm just walking down the street when suddenly this man comes up to me and asks me to lend him some money. Well he's carrying a big stick and he looks a bit dangerous, so I'm wondering what to do …

  • summarising a book, film or play:

Harry Potter is a pupil at Hogwarts school. One day when he is playing Quidditch he sees a strange object in the sky. He wonders what is happening

Basic level

Comments

Hi Sir
Please let me know which is correct ? 'A' is meeting 'B' after a long time after greeting or saying how are you ? Which is correct way of asking? What
do you do?/ What are you doing?
Regards
Lal

Hi Lal,

'What do you do?' is a question about a person's occupation which we generally use when meeting them for the first time.

 

If we are meeting someone we know or once knew then we would say one of these:

Are you still working as a journalist?

Are you still a journalist?

 

If we could not remember what they used to do then we could say:

What are you up to now?

What are you doing at the moment?

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

To describe an action or event in the future, which has already been planned or prepared, can we use both case, i.e. Simple present tense and present continuous tense. For example, I will meet my boyfriend tonight. I am meeting my boyfriend tonight. I thought they are the same meaning in English, but in different tense. Can you tell me do we make sentences in English at same meaning but different tense? thanks a lot.

Hello Maimaitiyiming,

English has many ways to talk about the future and all of the following are possible:

 

  • I meet my boyfriend tonight.
  • I'm meeting my boyfriend tonight.
  • I will (might/may/should etc) meet my boyfriend tonight.
  • I'm going to meet my boyfriend tonight.
  • I'll be meeting my boyfriend tonight.

 

Which you use depends upon the context and the speaker's intention. We have several pages which explain the various forms and when they can be used:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar/talking-about-future

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/intermediate-grammar/future-plans

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Mr. Peter!
First thanks for your in time reply. Second, can I conclude one rule that is to same situation we can make sentence in different tense depend on your examples and explanation ?

Hello Maimaitiyiming,

I'm afraid I don't understand what rule you are suggesting here. If you want to post another example we'll be happy to comment on it for you.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Why some sentences having 'has' are present continuous tense like - "She has a large house to live in.."

Hello Devesh Raj,

In that sentence, 'has' is in the present simple tense, not the present continuous. 

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

What is different between those two sentences?

I am always losing the phone.
I always lose the phone.

Thank you

Hello Vivian888999,

Both sentences describe things that happen frequently. The present continuous form (the first example) is generally used in such cases when we want to emphasise that the situation is irritating and that we wish it would stop.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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